The Paralysis of “Pharisees”


Mark 3: 1-6
1 Sm 17:32-33,37, 40-51/ Ps 144: 1-2,9-10

“Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than destroy it?” But they remained silent.
(Mark 3:4)

Lack of compassion leads to Pride,
The Pharisees’ paralysis;
But it can never be denied,
Love will heal us of that disease.

As Jesus entered the synagogue, He saw a man there with a withered hand. The day being a Sabbath, He knew the officials there were just waiting for an opportunity to accuse Him. Calling the man with the withered hand, Jesus said, “Come up here before us.” Then He asked them, “What does the law allow us to do on the Sabbath? To do good or to do evil? To save life or to destroy it? But they remained silent. Jesus regarded them with anger and deep sadness because of their hardness of heart. Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out and his hand was restored. The Pharisees left, and immediately plotted with the Herodians on how they might be able to kill Jesus. (Mark 3:1-6)

Reflection

The Pharisees would rather join forces with their enemies, the Herodians (supporters of Rome) than acknowledge the compassion of Jesus for the invalid, and rejoice in the miracle of the man’s restored hand. They would rather plot to kill — on a Sabbath at that — than to investigate further if Jesus was really from God or God Himself. Why did they behave like this? Because the works of our Lord were threatening their all-important positions as spiritual leaders of the people. Their accusation that Jesus was violating the Sabbath by healing was a lame excuse to justify their evil scheme. They were in fact the ones violating this sacred day by plotting an evil deed. Their hearts had become so paralyzed by the sins of pride, hypocrisy and lack of compassion that there was no longer any hope for them to be reformed.

Reflecting on today’s Gospel, let us ask ourselves the following: Is there any part in my life that has become paralyzed or has atrophied because of animosity? Has my compassion for the poor and the sick shriveled because of my own selfish concerns? Do I remain silent as if my tongue has become stiff because I fail to proclaim the Word of God? Have I lost my flexibility to change my position when I know I’m in the wrong? Am I predisposed to close my mind because of self-righteous pride even when my position is opposed to the truth? Do I at times feel that perhaps my faith has withered, because my prayers have become mechanical, or observing the ‘Sabbath’ (Sunday Mass) has become an obligatory ritual?

Our faith needs to be regularly exercised if it has to be strengthened by the grace of God. We can do this by constantly stretching out to others — in sharing God’s Word, in praying for the healing of the sick and the dying, and in extending helping hands to the needy. Otherwise, our spiritual inactivity will surely lead to a paralyzed faith, and we will be no better than modern-day Pharisees.

Lord, I would rather have a paralyzed hand than an atrophied heart. Amen.

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